Injuries suck no matter the circumstance. But when you’re a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, or anyone who is active and has goals to reach, injuries suck even more. They set you back, they prevent you from doing what you love the most, and they can be quite detrimental if they aren’t handled the right way.
To put it into perspective, I fell down the stairs and tore a ligament in my wrist last year. Being stubborn, I decided to brush it off and push through. Bad idea – I ended up having wrist surgery 6 months later. I lost all my upper body mass during those 6 months, and went through months of painful physical therapy post-surgery to gain my wrist mobility back.
Once my wrist was healed, I was back in the gym training for my first powerlifting meet, being extra cautious with my wrist, only to somehow injure my back. Promising myself rest post-meet, I pushed through and did my powerlifting meet, which only aggravated my injury further. One herniated disc and three months of mobility work, physical therapy, and active rest later, I’m starting fresh with body weight squats and lunges. Having lost both upper and lower body mass and strength this time around, it’s safe to say I’m frustrated. Frustrated with myself for not taking my injury more seriously, and frustrated with my injury for being so serious.
Lesson learned: you have to listen to your body. If you want to heal, then you will willingly give up what’s necessary in order to do so. If you are stubborn like me, then you might not be willing to give up your routine, but by neglecting to do so, you raise your chances of intensifying your injury. I could have prevented both of my injuries from becoming that bad if I had just listened and taken time off.
If you’re worried about getting injured, then be careful with your workouts, do your mobility work, and work your core to keep it strong. If you’re recently injured and wondering what to do, then the first thing is to see a doctor. Let them assess you and tell you what you can and can’t do. Then, you need to figure out how to work around your injury. Chances are you can still exercise – just maybe not in the way you want to.
For example, I couldn’t use my right wrist with a torn ligament. So, my focus went solely to legs. I squatted three times a week with one hand gripping the barbell, the other in my brace resting against the bar, I did machines that didn’t require hands (leg press, leg extension, hamstring curl), and I got people to put barbells on my back to do good mornings and walking lunges. My upper body may have wilted away, but my legs grew some serious mass.
My back was a different story – I was out of the game completely. If you have a back injury, chances are you will need to do some core work to remedy the situation. As per PT recommendation, I’ve been doing planks, side planks, cable twists, stability ball wall squats/hamstring curls/glute bridges, cobra pose, and leg floats on the foam roller to name a few. Some of you might scoff at the lack of intensity these exercises come with, but if you’re going to mock the healing process, then you’re going to have a hard time healing.
Use Your Common Sense
If your injury isn’t serious, then you need to assess what exercises will aggravate your injury further, and what won’t. Most of this is common sense. If you’ve injured your back, squatting and deadlifting probably isn’t the best course of action. If you’ve injured your hamstring, stiff leg deadlifts probably shouldn’t be part of your program. If you’ve injured your shoulder, you probably shouldn’t be benching – the list goes on.
Ultimately, it’s your choice. If you want to heal, then you will take the necessary time off and do the necessary mobility work. Maybe you can still workout whilst injured too – embrace the smith machine, or neglect upper or lower body for a while, or maybe do some circuits or cardio. A workout is a workout, and while it might not be the workout you want to be doing, at least it’s something for the time being til you’re fully healed.